EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams plan to take plenty of precaution with some of their key players returning from injury during the preseason. When it starts Friday night against the New Orleans Saints at the Edward Jones Dome, it's unlikely that quarterback Sam Bradford, tackle Jake Long and center Scott Wells will play.
Bradford (knee), Long (knee) and Wells (illness) have been working their way back from their respective ailments throughout this training camp with Bradford ahead of the other two in terms of workload. In fact, Bradford has taken all the reps with the first-team offense and showed no signs of trouble on his surgically-repaired knee. But the Rams don't want to take any chances with a potential setback this early.
"He's done everything we needed to see right now at practice," coach Jeff Fisher said. "So he's going to play in the preseason, unlikely that he's going to play this week. But he'll get plenty of snaps with the starters because he needs to, he needs to get out there and work with Scott and the rest of the guys. But it's not because he can't, it's because it's our choice; as I have said before I'm really pleased with where he is and what he's doing. You see every day at practice he's doing something, that you just go, 'That's Sam', that's what we expect from him."
The Rams have been more concerned with Bradford's arm than his knee in this camp as they've worked to ensure he doesn't get fatigued from doing too much too soon. While all parties would like for Bradford to take his first hit, that time will come later in the preseason.
"If it's a low hit or something like that coming off a knee I think it's concerning but he's going to be braced and he'll be fine," Fisher said. "The knee is very, very stable and strong. Obviously, we'll try to keep him upright in the preseason like everybody's going to try to do with their quarterbacks."
As for Long and Wells, both have slowly been working their way back into the mix after returning to team drills last week. The plan is for both players to get into preseason games but, like Bradford, Fisher doesn't want to force the issue.
"Jake will not play," Fisher said. "[He] could play, but we're not going to play him. I think we'll probably hold Scott [out] as well."
Fisher's Rams have generally preferred a gradual build in the preseason which often means more time in each game, even including the fourth and final preseason contest. So there will be other opportunities for players like Bradford, Long and Wells to see game action. The same can be said for players currently dealing with minor injuries such as linebacker James Laurinaitis, defensive tackle Michael Brockers and guard Rodger Saffold.
With Bradford almost certainly not playing, the reps for the quarterbacks will go to some combination of Shaun Hill, Garrett Gilbert and Austin Davis. Tim Barnes is the likely replacement for Wells and the Rams have a few options to fill in for Long, including rookie Greg Robinson.